GP: Can you tell our readers a little bit about what you do for Microsoft, and how you got where you are?
Hunt: I started at Microsoft in 2000 as a marketing assistant. I progressed though product management on the PC side and then took over the Xbox product range soon after it launched. Over the last three years I’ve been leading the Xbox LIVE business across Australia and New Zealand as well as marketing all Xbox products here in NZ.
GP: So Xbox 360 – two years old this month! What do you consider to be the biggest challenge you’ve faced over the past two years?
Hunt: Well it wasn’t a shortage of great titles! I’d say the biggest thing for the entire next generation market in NZ is the relative affordability of the hardware, even at $650 the console is a big investment for many people. This has been helped however by the launch of the Arcade console at $449.95 RRP. We aim to have this across NZ by mid March in plenty of time for the GTA4 launch.
Despite the challenge around affordability, Xbox 360 has had an awesome first two years. We are clearly the number one next generation console with an install base greater than the other two next-gen platforms combined. We’re approaching 50,000 consoles in NZ which is a massive milestone for us.
GP: We’ve seen your phenomenal success with Xbox LIVE over the last few years, what do you see as key to maintaining this growth?
Hunt: It’s simple with Xbox LIVE – it’s easy to use with a fantastic interface and plenty of features such as LIVE Arcade, messaging, friends list plus great developer support and a commitment to continually improve and refine the service. The fact we have been refining LIVE for over 5 years in response to user feedback and the fact LIVE is owned, run, and managed completely internally is a big advantage for us in this space. Xbox LIVE now has a community of over 10 million people world-wide which is comparable to World of Warcraft and continues to grow.
GP: Microsoft has been active in the sponsorship area for the likes of Team Sidewinder, who have had some fantastic achievements with your assistance. Do you see this as a growth area, and will you look at expanding more towards professional console gaming?
Hunt: Yeah Team Sidewinder are rocking which is great! We are also involved in the World Cyber Games each year which is growing rapidly. We have recently appointed Tolan Henderson as our Sponsorship Manager – Tolan’s been working with the Xbox community for years and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some more sponsorships in this area. The Team Sidewinder team have also expanded to include Xbox 360 players which is a great move and indicates increasing interest in professional gaming.
GP: When most people think of Microsoft, they think of a huge corporate entity. Has it been hard to persuade people to view Microsoft as a company that appeals to gamers?